“Just be, and enjoy being. If you are present, there is never any need for you to wait for anything.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
I went to West Liberty to watch an afternoon of basketball with mom, dad, and the boys (the boys being Wally and Scrappy). This solemn look persisted most of the day until the final minute of the UK vs. Wichita State game. That’s when we were all screaming at the TV (as if they could hear us), and the dogs began to shake. UK was barely victorious; a nail-biter down to the wire. Louisville didn’t fair as well against their opponent, unfortunately. One of my favorite things is the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, and I always try to catch at least one game with dad. That, too, is one of my favorite things. I’m so glad I could catch a game with him.
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Dad and I had a rare treat today. Mom had gotten very ill last night, so I stepped in to help. I took dad to one of his appointments with his favorite Dr. Forrester. Then, we were invited to my Aunt Charlene’s for supper with the family. Poor mom was still in bed, so unfortunately she wasn’t able to go. Dad’s BFF, Tony Adkins was there and the two assumed their normal positions. Food was delicious, the company superb. I told dad we had a good day all things considered. He replied, “Our time is always good. We go get, and take the guess out.” The Hillbilly Philosopher strikes again.
“An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.” ~ Zen Proverb
Wally doesn’t understand grace, but he understands roast chicken and veggies. He also understands that Papaw Terry is a sucker for a pitiful looking dog. Non-starving dog aside, aren’t our heroes sweet? They’re such a blessing to have around.
“Our days are happier when we give people a piece of our heart instead of a piece of our mind.”
Our super hero power couple celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. Tony Adkins, whom you met just last month, brought them pizza, and peanuts, and a movie at lunchtime. I heard tell the three of them got their bellies full then slept the afternoon away. God bless Tony for looking after them the way he does. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Last night, I reckon the Mennonites heard it was their Anniversary, so they stopped by to sing and visit for a while. Talk about good people. If you want anything fixed or built in Morgan County, that’s who to call. Top-notch craftsmanship, and honest as the day is long. Their visit really put a pep in mom and dad’s steps. As for me, I forgot to send them a card for a second year in a row. But I did post an anniversary picture of them on facebook this morning that’s now gotten more responses than everything I posted in 2016 combined. You see, our power couple wins the award for most popular couple as well. We’re going to celebrate mom’s birthday and this anniversary later, when it’s warm, so we settled for a phone call for now. I’m thankful to have them to call.
“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” ~ Mother Teresa
All week my mother had been saying, “Your birthday present will be here Saturday.” I was expecting flowers or something delivered from UPS. I was wrong. Mom and dad were just getting ready to go home today when a Jeep pulled in. I walked outside and there stood Tony Adkins and my aunt Charlene. So, I thought they were my present come to visit. Wrong again. They were delivering my present. I said to Charlene, “Now, what woman wouldn’t want a generator for her 52nd birthday?” We had a good laugh! I love my new generator, don’t misunderstand me. It’s something I’ve wanted since I bought my house. Score another point for mom in the birthday present department!
Still, I kinda liked the idea that Tony and Charlene were my gift. You see, theirs is an unexpected love affair. I don’t really remember them dating when I was a child, but I’m told they did. Then, Tony’s best friend, my uncle Ralph Paul, was killed in Vietnam and everything stopped. A few years later, Tony married an incredible woman, Sandy, whom I adored. They were, together and individually, salt of the Earth people that anyone would be proud to know, and they were great friends to mom and dad. And Tony, of course, was like family to me already. He said recently, “I’ve loved you since Tennessee Hound Dog;” a song by the Osborne Brothers that I sang a lot as a kid. I was sad when Sandy got sick and sadder when she died last year. You’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more positive spirit than her. A few months before Sandy’s passing, Charlene’s husband died suddenly. Through sympathy card exchanges Tony and Charlene’s old romance rekindled, and here they are; like a fairy tale. Charlene said recently, “I’ve never been this happy in my life.” You’re never too old to find love and be happy. So, Tony and Charlene were my birthday present. Mom and dad were my birthday present, too. Every day with them is like a present. I’m a lucky, lucky woman, and boy am I grateful for that generator. Every girl needs one.
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Our hero continues his recovery at the VA. Sisters Lois, above, and Barbara were there when I went by. They’ve come to see him every day. I listened to the three tell some new stories (to me) of their shared childhood. The interesting thing about siblings with several years between them, and gender playing a role to a degree, is how differently their shared experiences can be. This is true for all of us of course. We’ll each recall the same event in slightly differing ways, but to hear these three recount their youth piqued my interest a great deal. No matter what stories they told, or how different the details, one thing was abundantly clear and that was just how challenging their growing up really was; for each of them but also for their mother. Their father was a miner who would sometimes be gone for weeks or months at a time. Meanwhile, their mother was a home maker trying to feed, clothe, and clean 14 children. Plus, there’s a generation between the oldest and youngest; the oldest born before WWII, and the youngest near the start of the Vietnam conflict. The first six to eight children were born in a variety of coal camps in Eastern Kentucky, and the last ones were born after the family moved back to the maternal family farm at the head of Railroad Fork in Morgan County. It is not an exaggeration to say few people can imagine such a life. While I’m very sorry they had to endure so much hardship, I appreciate the people it grew them into being. All 14 of my grandmother’s children have their own story; unique and powerful. And each one is a blessing.
“Never think that what you have to offer is insignificant.
There will always be someone out there who needs what you have to give.”
2016 has not been a bad year for everyone. It’s been a good year for me despite the truly awful year of loss, and I’m not talking about celebrity deaths, though there were quite a few of them. I’m talking about the loss of family, classmates, co-workers, friends and loved ones. There were so many at times it felt as if I’d fallen into an alternate universe. I know death is to be expected, even more so with age, but 2016 was surreal. There were so many people who died that I made a list just to remember them all, and still I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. Then, the election happened. After that it was as if a door to a-no-good-very-bad room had opened, sucking everything into the abyss. Aunt Janet broke her hip, dad had a heart attack, mom contracted pneumonia, and now, for New Year’s Eve, dad’s back in the hospital with a stroke (he’s getting better already). And all this is just in my corner of the world. I know a half dozen people far worse off than me. So, yea, it’s been an insane year for death and illness for a lot of people.
It’s not healthy for me to dwell on the sad stuff, so while I was making the list of people who’ve walked on in 2016, I also made a list of all the great things that happened. It was a great year for my art for sure. The first issue of Solidago was published. I was honored to provide the cover of Appalachian Heritage’s fall issue. I had images published in the Bible Belt Almanac with Catherine Brereton’s story. I was the first featured artist in Heartwood Lit Magazine. I had a piece in KAC’s “This is 50” exhibit at KY Crafted. I did From Cane Ridge to Cathedral Basilica art talk with Lori-Lyn Hurley at ArtsPlace. I set up – and actually sold work at – my first art fairs; Market in the Park and Pickin’ in the Park. I had the opportunity to photograph some incredible sacred moments at Furnace Mountain Buddhist Retreat, Cane Ridge Meeting House, and the baptisms of my mom, Aunt Janet, and Darrell Conley. To cap it off, this post will complete the fifth year of the outhouse. So much for a year-long project, eh? In many ways it was a pivotal year for my creative side, and I think it was no coincidence that it came at the same time I was surrounded by turmoil. Art has kept me sane, given me perspective, and helped me understand myself and my place in the world.
Art wasn’t the only goodness to come my way this year. I received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Performance at work, and I pulled off an excellent international IFLA conference that will pay dividends long into my career’s future, at home and abroad. I got to spend time with dear friends Callie and Eric whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years. I met Robert Treadway, Kyle Macy, Kathleen Robinson, Cindy Reed, and Ceci Virtue, all of whom I believe will be friends long into the future. William LeMaster and Marlon Hurst got married, but not to each other. They married great women instead – Leah and Kathi – and I just couldn’t be happier for them. Tammy Jo O’Neal, Pam Kingfisher, Greg Gross, Barbara Plested and Gary and Pam Thurman came to visit this year. I loved every moment with them. I had the chance to visit Oklahoma and hang out with BFF Angie Bliss Fanning, Ellen Fagala, The Rickey’s, and so many others of my chosen family. I had the chance to go to California for the first time in decades, too. How I love it there. I got to meet Esta Day’s new baby, and Lisa Bick delivered baby Apricot (that’s not her real name but that’s what I call her), and Ashley and Taylor brought home their little bundle, Lucille. Babies are good for the soul. Stacy gave me a Lexus for Christmas. It uses AA batteries and a remote control, but still, it’s a Lexus. David Bowie, Paul Simon, and Sting made some of their best music this year proving you’re never too old to make great music: inspiring. And Wally finally got his fence, thanks be to God! All of these things were great and wonderful events in my life.
Not to be overlooked are the little things in everyday existence that really make life worth living. Like my co-workers, my friends, the nice people I run into here and there, Stacy, Judy, Robin, Marcie, Larry Scott, Ronnie, Jodi, Crystal, Marie, Annie, Deb, Erin, Terry, Marlon, the list goes on. But nothing this year has been greater than getting another year with my parents. They are true blessings and I am grateful for them, and to them. So, here’s to a fabulous 2017. May we all be blessed along the way.
(Mom and dad with Tony Adkins, Aunt Charlene, Aunt Linda Gail, and Uncle Phillip with Aunt Lois Nell behind the camera)
Classmates: Leona Lewis, Charlie Osborne, Norma Kidd, Welma Trimble.
Family: Great-Uncle IB Terry, Uncle Roger Vest, Uncle James Trent Terry
Loved ones: Paul Yelton, Allen Smith, Thelma Howell, dad’s little dog Crackerjack
Acquaintances: Ben McLain, Michael Maxey, Matt Burke, Danny Owen
Hometown loved ones: Dr. William Holbrook, Quincy Stegall, Junior Benton, Peanut Benton, Gary Holbrook, Justine Gevedon, Gigger Nipper, Mary Lou Sheets, Jose Cordero, Darrell Nickell, Grover Frederick, Eva Cox, Bea Robinson, Joe Wells
Musicians, writers, actors, comedians, astronauts, sports-folk, politicians: David Bowie (Jan 10), Alan Rickman, Dan Haggerty, Glenn Frey, Abe Vigoda, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Vanity, Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, George Kennedy, Joey Feek, Pat Conroy, Nancy Reagan, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Frank Sinatra Jr., Joe Garagiola, Georgia Davis Powers, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Prince, Guy Clark, Morley Safer, Muhammed Ali, Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell, Scotty Moore, Pat Summitt, Elie Weisel, Garry Marshall, Kenny Baker (R2D2), Gene Wilder, Edward Albee, Arnold Palmer, Shimon Peres, Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali, Janet Reno, Charmain Carr, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughan, Leon Russell, Gwen Ifell, Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay) Holly Dunn, Sharon Jones, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, Ron Glass, Greg Lake, John Glenn, E.R. Braithwaite (To Sir with Love), Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Richard Adams (Watership Down), Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) (Dec. 31)
“Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” ~ Unknown
Well…..this day, like many days recently, did not go as planned. Stacy and I had planned to have her very belated birthday lunch at Red Lobster. That part happened and we had a lovely time. Then, I was going to Marcie Christensen’s for a little get together with friends. One of the friends got sick, so the gathering was cancelled. I sat down on the couch to read instead. The next thing I knew four hours had passed. Passed as in I fell asleep and would have kept sleeping but mom called to say she was headed to the VA ER in Lexington with dad. That meant I wasn’t going to Marlon and Kathi’s open house party tonight either. I met mom and dad at the VA instead. A few tests and two neurologists later, the conclusion was that he likely had a stroke. It’s small enough that it didn’t appear on a CT scan, but he can’t stand up on his own, and he can’t walk without falling backward. Otherwise, his motor functions, strength, and heart are excellent. They admitted him for additional tests to be sure that’s it, and to get him back on track if it was. And if it’s not, then I’m sure they’ll figure it out. He doesn’t feel good, but you’d not know it from this picture. God love his heart, he has never shied away from my camera, but he smiles for me now. He didn’t used to. I’m grateful for every smile.
“Stay Afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ~ Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher died today. I don’t think I realized what an impact she had on so many of my generation, me included. She was only 60. That’s not much older than I am right now and it’s definitely too young. George Michael died on Christmas Day for pity sake, and he was only 53! 2016 has been an incredibly sad year for many people I know, so every time I hear about someone dying, particularly someone way too young to die, I think about how fortunate I’ve been to have my parents with me this long, and how I’ve been fortunate to have the majority of my aunts and uncles with me this long. Thanks be to God all my cousins are still living and having babies of their own. This is mom and dad with dad’s sister Mabel, her granddaughter Katy, and Katy’s son, and the newest edition to the Terry clan, Bryson.
I will cherish the family I have for as long as I’m blessed to have them. And when they’re gone, in the words of my friend Jeff Suchanek, I’ll simply remember that they’re “not gone, just gone ahead.” Here’s to 2017 being a little less about death and a little more about living.